Byzantine Oil and Wine Press, Mosaics Found in Bet Shemesh

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) —
The excavation site in Bet Shemesh. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)
The excavation site in Bet Shemesh. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

In recent weeks, the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered a large, impressive compound that archeologists believe date to the Byzantine period in Ramat Bet Shemesh where there is an oil press, wine press and mosaics.

The excavations carried out as part of the expansion of Bet Shemesh revealed a prosperous life from centuries ago about which little is known.

The compound is surrounded by an outer wall and is divided on the inside into two regions: an industrial area and an activity and residential area. An unusually large press in a rare state of preservation that was used to produce olive oil was exposed in the industrial area.  A large winepress revealed outside the built compound consisted of two treading floors from which the grape must flowed to a large collecting vat.

The size of the agricultural installations shows that these facilities were used for production on an industrial-scale rather than just for domestic use.

In the residential portion of the compound several rooms were exposed, some of which had a mosaic pavement preserved in them. Part of a colorful mosaic was exposed in one room where there was apparently a staircase that led to a second floor that was not preserved. In the adjacent room another multi-colored mosaic was preserved that was adorned with a cluster of grapes surrounded by flowers set within a geometric frame. Two entire ovens used for baking were also exposed in the compound.

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